• JohnThompson, the first Black coach to take his team to an NCAA men’s basketball championship, has passed away. He was 78.
The Associated Press writes that "Thompson went to Providence College as one of the most touted basketball prospects in the country and led the Friars to the first NCAA bid in school history. He graduated in 1964 and played two seasons with Red Auerbach’s Celtics, earning a pair of championship rings as a sparingly used backup to Bill Russell.
"One of the most celebrated and polarizing figures in his sport, he took over a moribund Georgetown program in the 1970s and molded it in his unique style into a perennial contender, culminating with a national championship team anchored by center Patrick Ewing in 1984 … Along the way, Thompson said what he thought, shielded his players from the media, and took positions that weren’t always popular. He never shied away from sensitive topics — particularly the role of race in both sports and society — and he once famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCAA rule because he felt it hurt minority athletes."
And, the AP writes, "A stickler for academics, he kept a deflated basketball on his desk, a reminder to his players that a degree was a necessity because a career in basketball relied on a tenuous 'nine pounds of air'."